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Gov't suspends administering 2 vaccines after 4 children die

by Bobby Philips on 3/5/2011 | Comments | Viewed 3914 time(s) | Full Page View

Originaly publsihed at

Saturday 05th March, 06:08 AM JST


The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare decided Friday to suspend administering two types of publicly subsidized vaccines as four children recently died after receiving them, notifying municipal governments of the decision, ministry sources said.

The two types are the Hib vaccine to prevent bacterial meningitis and a vaccine to protect against streptococcus pneumoniae.

There have been no reports so far from the doctors who treated the children establishing the causal relationship between the vaccines and their deaths, according to the ministry.

But the ministry is planning to hold a meeting of an expert panel early next week after consulting with other doctors to closely examine the cases, the sources said. The ministry is expected to resume the vaccinations should the panel decide that the two vaccines do not pose serious safety concerns.

The four were a 3-month-old girl in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, who died Feb. 20, a 2-year-old boy in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, who died Tuesday, a 1-year-old girl in Nishinomiya, also in Hyogo, who died Wednesday, and a 6-month-old girl in Kyoto City, who died Friday.

All the doctors of these children described the causal relations between their deaths and the vaccines were either unclear or impossible to evaluate. Some infants had underlying illnesses and others did not.

All of the four children were given a vaccine against streptococcus pneumoniae manufactured by Pfizer Inc, and all excluding the girl in Nishinomiya received ActHIB, a Hib vaccine made by Sanofi Pasteur Inc.

Also, all excluding the boy in Takarazuka received a mixed vaccine against diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus on the same day they received other vaccines.

The streptococcus pneumoniae vaccine has been administered to an estimated 1.10 million people in 2.15 million doses since it went on sale in February 2010. The Hib vaccine has been administered to an estimated 1.55 million people in 3.08 million doses since its launch in December 2008.

An increasing number of people are believed to be receiving these vaccines as a program began last November in which the state shoulders half the cost of vaccination if municipal governments organize and subsidize vaccination programs.

At a health ministry research panel meeting on Monday, a case of death after receiving a Hib vaccine was reported, but the panel judged that the vaccine did not pose a serious safety concern.